A new era for the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) began this week when incoming Director Chris Saines, CNZM was welcomed to the Gallery. This is an edited version of the Director’s welcome speech.
Thank you to the Traditional Owners of this land for their open-handed and powerful Welcome to Country. I could not have wished for a more heart-felt, appropriate and meaningful welcome than this.
I first acknowledge Uncle Des Sandy, Aunty Joan Collins and the Burragubba Dancers. Thank you for the generosity of your welcome to me and your acknowledgement of those who have come from Aotearoa to support me.
As the manager responsible for the appointment of this Gallery’s first curator of indigenous art, I feel immensely proud that my appointment coincides with the presentation of this ground-breaking contemporary exhibition My Country: I Still Call Australia Home, which takes over GOMA from 1 June.
This is an occasion that joins indigenous Australians to the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, links my place of birth with an adopted land, and reminds me of the cultural obligations common to both.
I have, to this day, been supported by a remarkable group of Māori working for the interests of Māori, and I greatly look forward to strengthening the ties that bind this Gallery to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community.
QAGOMA will remain a leading and a highly engaged partner in the delivery of outstanding visual arts programmes for and on behalf of Queenslanders.
I am honoured by this appointment and I truly can’t wait to get started!
To deliver on the collective aspirations for QAGOMA will require the commitment of a skilled and dedicated staff, and a focused and mobilised community of support, and in both respects this institution is fortunate indeed.
I come to a gallery with an established national and international reputation for its world-leading APT (The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art), its major exhibitions programme, its contemporary collection building and its Children’s Art Centre (CAC), and much else besides.
I come to a gallery with a distinguished 118-year history — one that has built a formative modern era into a remarkably successful period of contemporary achievement — one that is unquestionably a cornerstone of its community.
I recognise the transformational affect of GOMA, placing this gallery among the most visited in the world, but I also respect the history that preceded that development.
My task is to build on those foundations and to move QAGOMA to the next phase of its co-institutional life.
Contemporary art and contemporary artists are bound inextricably into our future, and I acknowledge the way in which those on whose shoulders I stand have created a unique space for connecting artists, art and people.
I look forward to meeting with the artists, local, regional, national and international whose work lies at the centre of that mission, and feel tremendously energised by the possibilities and the challenges that lie ahead.
Reflecting for a moment on the collection’s growth, I believe we need to make it work even harder, that there is capacity to be found among one of the country’s strongest contemporary collections.
The Gallery has a strong contemporary international and Asian and Pacific holding, without equal in Australia, much of which has been leveraged off its sustained investment in the APT — momentum which must not be lost.
The Gallery also has a deep well of institutional expertise and experience to draw on across many disciplines, including a curatorial team who I want to support to create more original research-focused exhibitions and publications.
Among the most rewarding exhibitions are those that we can develop through our own network of relationships and intellectual endeavour, exhibitions that we can then tour regionally, nationally and internationally.
At the same time, I want us to further excel at those very things we have already built a world-leading reputation for — such as the CAC and our work in touring and learning in regional Queensland.
This gallery has not spent the six years since the opening of GOMA, building an immensely distinctive and influential brand — in which the CAC and Cinémathèque have played pivotal roles — to see those gains diminished now.
Despite the economic constraints which all public art museums face worldwide, we must not allow our imaginations and our thinking to be constrained in reply.
I want this gallery to rise above the current challenges it faces in a way that inspires and engages our audiences, rather than simply reassures them we are working responsibly in their service — that much should be a given.
More than ever before, we need to work creatively, and take care not to confuse risk management with being risk averse. No one will thank us for lowering our ambitions and our horizons to meet a common denominator.
I feel tremendously excited about the possibilities of this new role, excited about what can be achieved together — working with artists and key cultural communities, with government, funders, patrons, our Board and staff.
I hope you will work with me, and with the Executive Management Team, as we begin to inexorably shape a new direction for the Gallery, one that brings its past with it in to its future.